Inquiry finds fault with Aboriginal treatment

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Following an investigation into the conditions of Canada’s Aboriginal population, United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya is recommending that the government launch an inquiry into the treatment of Canada’s Aboriginal population, with particular attention to the high rate of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

Anaya toured Canada for nine days, speaking with various members of the Aboriginal community, as well as both federal and provincial government officials.
Although Anaya’s official report is pending, he did issue several recommendations to the Canadian government, calling for a more collaborative relationship with First Nations peoples.

Jean Crowder, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan and Official Opposition Critic for Aboriginal Affairs, is less than optimistic about the government’s response to Mr. Anaya’s recommendations.

“Well it’s been a fairly muted response,” she said in an interview with The Cord.

“One of their responses has been that the Rapporteur talked about that they’re doing a good job and that’s not exactly what he said. So they haven’t attacked him the way they did the UN Special Rapporteur on Food Security, but they certainly have not indicated that they are paying attention to the concerns that he has raised.”

Crowder is hopeful that the attention over the Special Rapporteur’s visit will motivate a national discussion in Canada. “A lot of people were paying attention to it and part of what it also does is it galvanizes the grassroots,” she shared.

Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, commended Mr. Anaya on his work at a press conference, stating, “I acknowledge Special Rapporteur James Anaya’s time and efforts in listening carefully to the Indigenous peoples in this country, visiting First Nations communities and witnessing firsthand the challenges facing our people and governments. There is still much unfinished business and longstanding issues between First Nations and Canada that burden our relationship and hold all of us back. This is a critical moment and it is our hope that the Special Rapporteur’s report will help compel action.”

Crowder suggested, however, that Anaya’s report is unlikely to alleviate any of the tension that is felt between the Conservative government and the United Nations.

“One of the responses that we saw, that came from Conservative supporters, was that the United Nations has no business poking its nose in the affairs of Canada and I’m sure that captures the Prime Minister’s approach to the United Nations,” Crowder asserted.

“They’ll do what they did with the UN commission on Human Rights when it recommended that the government proceed with a national inquiry on murdered and missing Aboriginal women; they dismissed it out of hand,” she said.

Crowder believes that the government will likely focus on any positive aspects of the review while disregarding negative components. For example, she said, Anaya observed that Canada has implemented treaty rights in the Constitution.

“I’m hoping that the weight of what he [Anaya] is bringing forward will shame the Conservatives into taking some action,” added Crowder.

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